25 February 2014

Lunada Mexican Grill and Cantina

Lunada is a Mexican restaurant tucked into a Hilliard shopping plaza. The menu is standard-issue Americanized takes on Mexican cuisine.

The restaurant is large and brightly lit. The decor does not immediately scream Mexican. It feels more like a corporate mega-chain eatery than an authentic South of the Border spot. 

There is a list of eight vegetarian entrees on the menu along with quesadillas, fajitas and the usual guacamole and queso appetizers. Service was slow and a little uneven. They capably handled questions about ingredients.

The guacamole was citrusy and displayed clean cilantro throughout. It was much better than the pico de gallo, which lacked white onions and chopped hot peppers to make its flavor and texture different from the standard chip-dip tomato salsa that is served free with chips.

The chile relleno had a crunchy breading that kept the molten cheese interior contained. The bean burrito and cheese enchilada were topped with queso asadero and a smoky pepper sauce. 

Margaritas were tasty and reasonably priced. The bar had a reasonable selection of Ohio beers, including one or more from Columbus Brewing Company and Thirsty Dog, in addition to the normal Mexican beer classics.

Lunada Mexican Grill & Cantina on Urbanspoon

18 February 2014

Chez du Bon

Chez du Bon is the latest project from Yavonne Sarber's Fab Dining Group, which also includes de-Novo Bistro & Bar and Manifesto Tuscan Grato and Scotch Bar. The concept at this spot is a French market with a small dining area for the kitchen to prepare sandwiches, soups and salads as well as a few other notable French classics.

There were a limited amount of vegetarian items on the lunch menu - one meatless sandwich, a few starters, salads and French toast. The dinner menu has a few additional items including crepes and veggie poutine. Nothing on the menu was vegan. Some of the desserts, like the beignets, were prepared with beef tallow. Check with the kitchen when ordering if you have specific dietary restrictions.

The green salad was topped with fantastic pickled onions, carrots and tomatoes on a bed of peppery mixed greens lightly dressed in a bright vinaigrette. It looked great and tasted even better.

The mushroom crostini came on crusty bread that was the best part of the sandwich. It was crunchy and dense on the outside but soft in the middle. The oven-roasted fungi displayed a great texture that delivered layers of rosemary and garlic flavor. The soft herbed goat cheese melted on the sandwich, giving it a nice acidity.

The restaurant was surprisingly dark and formal. The dining room perhaps could be brightened and lightened to give it a more welcoming atmosphere like the one found in the market. Service struggled to keep up with a surprisingly busy dining room. 

The drinks at Chez du Bon include fun cocktails like the other two restaurants, as well as a small selection of wine and beer.

Chez du Bon on Urbanspoon

11 February 2014

Jie's Good Tasting

Jie's Good Tasting is tucked into a shopping plaza on Grandview Avenue. The space briefly housed a few other restaurants. The unassuming restaurant turns out formidable house-made dumplings that are a can't-miss attraction.  

The small kitchen produces a large number of vegetarian dishes. While the entrees are mostly standard issue (the vegetarian ma po tofu and Sichuan tofu are standouts from a list that for the most part can be found at almost every other restaurant in the country), the appetizers more than make up for the shortcomings of some of the main courses.

The tender veggie dumplings contain a delicious filling, and they soak up any sauce introduced to them. The filling was Chinese cabbage, mushroom and tofu with delicate seasonings influenced by cilantro. An order of 16 can feed a small army. 

Pulled from the inauthentic West Coast United States Polynesian vault, the tofu rangoon is still a sinfully addictive bite. The sweet and sour sauce had visible pieces of orange peel in it, and the creamy center fleshed out the citrus base of the dip.

The ma po tofu was golden fried, and served in a brown sauce with a slow-burning spice. The carrots and pea added little to the dish.

Service in the dining room can be uneven at times. There is no alcohol license. Take-out runs smoothly. Prices are inexpensive.

Jie's Good Tasting on Urbanspoon

04 February 2014

Nong's Hunan Express

Nong's Hunan Express is a Chinese/Thai spot that serves dishes that are much more exciting than its utilitarian setting. There is seating for about 12 inside the restaurant, which shares a plaza with a medical practice. The majority of business seems to be take-out, though there is typically a small but regular crowd eating in the restaurant.

The menu has a huge cache of Chinese and Thai vegetarian dishes made with a nice variety of fresh vegetables. Both cuisines are prepared in an authentic manner.

The vegatable egg roll, spring roll and fried tofu are meatless starters. The eggroll is stuffed with cabbage, carrots and mushrooms, and green onions, and it had a nice peppery essence. 

The Thai vegetarian dishes are all made without fish sauce. There are a variety of curries and different noodle entrees. Chinese items include the typical Sichuan, garlic and kung pao tofu preparations, as well as other stir fried vegetable classics.

There was a panoply of veggies in the phad pedt tofu. Fried cubes of tofu sit in a coconut hot yellow curry with basil, water chestnuts, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, green and white onions, carrots, celery and green peppers. It is a collection of crunchy texture and spicy citrus flavors that marry perfectly on the plate.

With so many vegetarian options, diners could mix it up at Nong's and never order the same thing twice. It's a nice option that neighbors shouldn't just drive past. 

Nong's Hunan Express on Urbanspoon